Case Digest: Spouses Antonio vs. Vda. de Monje

G.R. No. 149624: September 29, 2010




Spouses Catalino Manguiob and Andrea Pansaon were the original owners of the subject parcel of coconut land, consisting of 15,903 square meters, particularly known as Lot No. 1 covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 1020 of the Register of Deeds of Davao.

On 02 September 1962, Andrea Pansaon who survived her husband Catalino Manguiob, together with some other heirs, sold to Macedonio Monje 7,500 square meters only of the aforesaid property. The said deed of absolute sale was duly notarized by Notary Public Ricardo Reyes and entered in his notarial book.

Macedonio Monje immediately took possession thereof and constructed a house worth P30,000.00.

The heirs of spouses Catalino Manguiob and Andrea Pansaon who also died, sold the subject property which was already sold to Macedonio Monje in 1962, in favor of Nicanor Manguiob and Carolina V. Manguiob.

Immediately thereafter, spouses Nicanor Manguiob and Carolina V. Manguiob had executed an absolute deed of sale in favor of the former’s sister-in-law, Avelyn B. Antonio, the entire Lot No. [1] consisting of 15,903 square meters. The sale was entered in the notarial book of Notary Public Juanito T. Hernandez.

Macedonio Monje knew about it only when he received a letter from Avelyn B. Antonio, informing him that she is now the registered owner of the subject property under a new Transfer Certificate of Title.

Aggrieved, Macedonio Monje filed before the CFI of Baganga, Davao Oriental, a complaint for the annulment of the deed of sale between the heirs of Catalino Manguiob and Carolina Balanay/Nicanor Manguiob, as well as the subsequent deed of absolute sale by the latter in favor of Avelyn Antonio and the cancellation of TCT No. T-9643.

The aforesaid court rendered a decision declaring the 2nd and 3rd deeds of sale of the property as null and void, and the transfer certificate title No. 9643 likewise null and void.

Plaintiff-appellants, Spouses Antonio appealed the above-mentioned decision all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in G.R. No. 69696, rendered a decision finding res judicata.

Plaintiff-appellants [herein petitioners] filed a case for a sum of money, accounting of the proceeds of the copra, damages and attorney’s fees against herein defendant-appellees before the Regional Trial Court of Baganga, Davao Oriental, Branch 7.

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued an Order dismissing herein petitioners' complaint on the ground of res judicata.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the RTC and dismissed the appeal of herein petitioners.

ISSUE: Whether or not the CA erred in applying the principle of res judicata

CIVIL LAW: Res judicata and its tests


Res judicata is defined as “a matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled by judgment.” According to the doctrine of res judicata, an existing final judgment or decree rendered on the merits, and without fraud or collusion, by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon any matter within its jurisdiction, is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies, in all other actions or suits in the same or any other judicial tribunal of concurrent jurisdiction on the points and matters in issue in the first suit.

To state simply, a final judgment or decree on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies in all later suits on all points and matters determined in the former suit.

The principle of res judicata is applicable by way of (1) “bar by prior judgment” and (2) “conclusiveness of judgment.”

There is “bar by prior judgment” when, as between the first case where the judgment was rendered and the second case that is sought to be barred, there is identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action. In this instance, the judgment in the first case constitutes an absolute bar to the second action.

Whereas, conclusiveness of judgment finds application when a fact or question has been squarely put in issue, judicially passed upon, and adjudged in a former suit by a court of competent jurisdiction. The fact or question settled by final judgment or order binds the parties to that action (and persons in privity with them or their successors-in-interest), and continues to bind them while the judgment or order remains standing and unreversed by proper authority on a timely motion or petition.

In the present case, there is no question that there is identity of parties in Civil Case No. 007-125 and Civil Case No. 506.

However, as to identity of issues, a perusal of the records and other pleadings would show that the issue raised in Civil Case No. 007-125 is whether the sale to petitioners of the 7,500 square meter portion of Lot No. 1 being contested by respondents is valid. On the other hand, in Civil Case No. 506, the issues are whether petitioners were deprived of possession of the remaining 8,403 square meter portion of Lot No. 1 which was validly sold to them and whether they are entitled to an accounting of the proceeds of the copra harvested from their property which was supposedly appropriated by respondents. The Court finds that there is no identity of issues as the issue raised in Civil Case No. 007-125 is different from, and does not overlap with, the issue raised in Civil Case No. 506.

The Court has previously employed various tests in determining whether or not there is identity of causes of action as to warrant the application of the principle of res judicata. One test of identity is the “absence of inconsistency test” where it is determined whether the judgment sought will be inconsistent with the prior judgment. If no inconsistency is shown, the prior judgment shall not constitute a bar to subsequent actions.

In the instant case, the reliefs prayed for in Civil Case No. 506 are the payment of a sum representing the proceeds of the copra supposedly harvested from petitioners' property and purportedly misappropriated by respondents. Petitioners also pray for the award of moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees and litigation expenses.

The more common approach in ascertaining identity of causes of action is the “same evidence test,” whereby the following question serves as a sufficient criterion: “would the same evidence support and establish both the present and former causes of action?” If the answer is in the affirmative, then the prior judgment is a bar to the subsequent action; conversely, it is not. In the instant case, it is unmistakable that the pieces of evidence that would back up the cause of action in Civil Case No. 007-125 are different from the set of evidence that would prove the cause of action in Civil Case No. 506.

Aside from the “absence of inconsistency test” and “same evidence test,” we have also ruled that a previous judgment operates as a bar to a subsequent one when it had “touched on [a] matter already decided,” or if the parties are in effect “litigating for the same thing.” A reading of the decisions of the lower and appellate courts in Civil Case No. 007-125 would show that there were neither discussions nor disposition of the issues raised in Civil Case No. 506.